The dive watch style is one of the most iconic looks of the contemporary luxury watch world. It’s been done by all brands, from the cheapest to the most expensive, and everything in between.
Naturally, with so many interpretations, there’s bound to be some winners and many more duds.
In this guide, we’ll be talking all about the iconic wristwatch style. We define the exact requirements that must be met to qualify as a professional dive watch, as well as list our picks of the top swiss dive watches:
- What Is A Dive Watch?
- The Best Luxury Dive Watches
- Best Dive Watch Under $1,000
- Best Dive Watch Under $500
We’ve also covered a couple of value-packed divers which can be had for significantly less than the high-end options. You can use the links above to jump to a specific part of the page, or keep scrolling to read it all.
The Best Dive Watches
- Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600
- Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Ref. 126.96.36.199.01.001
- Longines Heritage Legend Diver Ref. L3.6188.8.131.52
- Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Ref. 5008B-1130-B52A
- IWC Aquatimer Automatic Ref. IW329001
Admittedly, you could’ve maybe guessed that a Rolex would be our top selection as the best luxury diver’s timepiece.
Granted, Rolex’s divers may be the most well-known, but there’s plenty of prestigious brands who have been making their own iconic dive models for decades, all of which come with their own virtues. For this reason, we invite you to check out our entire list of watches which are formidable diving instruments in their own right.
See Bespoke Unit’s Watch Reviews
What Is A Dive Watch?
Broadly defined, a dive watch is a type of wristwatch built to withstand the rigors of underwater activities. Yet nowadays it’s pretty easy to come across affordable timepieces that can be worn without worry in all kinds of aquatic settings. So, are all of these also considered dive watches?
Not quite. Back in 1996, an international set of requirements was established and which must be met for a watch be considered a certified Diver’s watch. Moreover, the certification must be attained by each individual watch that is to be visibly labeled as such.
Yet the best watch manufacturers had been producing dive instruments long before the standard came into being, as early as the 1920s. Before the advent of electric watches, recreational and most importantly professional divers counted on their mechanical timepieces for timing their underwater excursions. Indeed, these were vital instruments required for safe subaquatic work.
Interestingly enough, even dive watches from decades ago are robust enough to meet today’s dive watch standards. You may even surmise that the standards themselves are based on the top mechanical dive watches which had already been perfected by Swiss watch manufacturers. As we discuss next, they do in fact share many similarities, like the need for a timing device, magnetic and shock resistance of the movement, as well as legibility in blackout conditions.
ISO 6425 (Professional Dive Watch) Requirements
ISO 6425 is the name of the certification by the International Organization for Standardization that speaks to the individual criteria that a mechanical watch must meet before it can be called a true diver’s watch. These include the following:
- Water resistance to a minimum of 100 meters; must also be resistant to 1.25x the labeled depth rating. For example, a Rolex that is rated to a depth of 300 meters must actually be able to withstand a depth of 375 meters (300 x 1.25 = 375)
- A ‘countdown’ timekeeping device that cannot be accidentally changed. A unidirectional rotating bezel suffices as it can never be rotated to display more time, only less, than was originally configured.
- Legibility in darkness of the current time, the running time, and the seconds hand (as proof that the watch is still working). Solved by the use of luminous material on bezels, indices, and hands.
- Magnetic resistance of the movement
- Shock resistance of the movement
- Resistance to corrosion
- Strength of the connection between the band and case, whether this be a strap or a bracelet
As we alluded to earlier, many luxury dive watch manufacturers already abide by these standards, though their watches may not be ISO 6425 certified.
As you can imagine, the independent certification is time and resource-consuming, so not many brands go through with it. This is not to say that the watches wouldn’t pass the tests; the standards for durability in the watch industry are already extremely high. Still, most brands don’t see it as a worthwhile endeavour.
Why Are Dive Watches So Popular?
We can start with the fact that a majority of dive watches echo the look of the iconic Rolex Submariner, arguably the most famous watch design in history. By imitating the tried-and-true Sub aesthetic, even if only slightly, the watch is likely to be well-received.
Outside of them often looking like a Rolex, the basic style of the most standard dive watch is not merely inoffensive; quite the opposite, actually. The look of a steel case on a steel bracelet with a solid color face is almost instinctively handsome.
Lastly, consider that dive watches have become accepted in casual as well as formal settings. They can be worn with shorts or with a suit, and fit right in to both scenes. This makes it the ideal style for a one-watch collection, something that is more common than most of us “watch people” would think.
Best Men’s Dive Watches
1. Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600 – Price: $11,350
While the Submariner may be the most popular dive watch offering from Rolex’s catalog, there’s another line from the Genevan watchmaker which was specifically developed for professional commercial divers – the Sea-Dweller. We’ve chosen the most modern iteration of this diver of times past, the Baselworld 2017 Sea-Dweller 126600, as our top men’s dive watch.
Upon release, the 126600 caused quite a stir due to some very specific deviations from the original Sea-Dweller design. The first of these was the case size, which was increased to 43mm vs. the original 40mm. The second, and perhaps most controversial, was the presence of a cyclops magnifier over the date.
Though the watch may not be completely true to its roots, the 43mm Sea-Dweller is quite clearly an answer from Rolex to their clients. With the popularity of the 44mm Deepsea, particularly in the D-Blue variety, the brand looked to fulfill the niche for a Sub-style watch in a larger case.
The Sea-Dweller served as the perfect platform for the changes. And although controversial, the result was a sophisticated “super” Submariner watch, boasting the new generation 3235 caliber with all of Rolex’s latest horological tech. The watch is also equipped with the hallmark helium escape valve and new Glidelock clasp, along with the model name printed in deep red on its dial, the ultimate nod to the coveted “red sea-dweller” models that often rock vintage auctions.
2. Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Ref. 184.108.40.206.01.001 – Price: $5,200
When considering the greatest mechanical dive watches around, there’s no discussion if there’s no mention of Omega’s own idol, the Seamaster Diver.
The Diver 300m Master Co-Axial Chronometer is the brand’s contemporary offering; to put it in their own words, the 220.127.116.11.01.001 touts the “famous ocean heritage… updated with Omega’s best innovation and design.”
The watch’s case is 42mm in stainless steel, and is accompanied by the trademark bracelet of the same construction. The bezel is a glossy black ceramic with a white enamel diving scale which offers exceptional contrast and legiblity.
Like the bezel insert, the dial is also black ceramic with a laser-etched wave motif. The hands are mostly skeletonized and lumed, as are the indices, which are hand-applied. A simple date at 6 o’clock imparts a vital functionality and an attractive symmetry on the watch’s face.
Indeed, Omega’s catalog includes similarly tempting varieties of this same model with upgraded materials including ceramic, titanium, and the brand’s proprietary Sedna gold. Nonetheless, there’s something special about the classic steel/black face look, and at the aggressive sub-$6k price point, it’s one that’s hard to pass up.
3. Longines Heritage Legend Diver Ref. L3.618.104.22.168 – Price: $2,400
If you’ve read any of our varied wristwatch reviews or guides, you’ll notice that we’re not ones to rate the character of a timepiece solely by its list price. This Longines Legend Diver is one of those instances where there’s a tremendous amount of value to be had at a very accessible price point.
The Legend Diver, part of Longines’ Heritage collection, is directly inspired by the brand’s reference 7042 model from the ’60s. Unlike our previous highlights, it boasts the super compressor case profile that includes dual crowns and an internal rotating dive bezel.
The look of the watch is essentially a carbon copy of the vintage model, further enhanced with a date function and Super-LumiNova markings that make for ideal legibility even in the darkest conditions. Perfect for when you’re 300 meters under the sea (to which the watch is rated), or reaching around a dark bedroom for the watch on your nightstand.
Putting this Legend Diver over-the-top is the optional “shark mesh” or Milanese steel bracelet that imparts the final touch of aquatic essence, and which makes for an eye-catching look and a surprisingly comfortable wear.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth take of the Longines Legend Diver, make sure to check out our detailed review of this pragmatic model.
4. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Ref. 5008B-1130-B52A – Price: $14,700
The Blancpain name is one that does not resonate often outside the watch industry. This is quite unfortunate as the brand is recognized by endless watch collectors as the manufacturer of a beloved dive watch model, the Fifty Fathoms.
Continuing the theme of the previously presented diver watches, this limited edition Fifty Fathoms Barakuda is also a re-edition of a vintage Blancpain diver from the ’60s.
Most intriguing and captivating of this Fifty Fathoms, in fact of all Fifty Fathoms watches except the Bathyscaphe, is the domed sapphire diver’s bezel. It’s unlike any bezel encountered in the watch world and rather mesmerizing in the hand.
Looking past the bezel, there’s an unencumbered black dial with a date aperture at 3 o’clock.
Present also on the dial the contrasting white hands and “old radium” luminous indices that directly recall the vintage model serving as inspiration.
We’d be one of the first to say that all of these re-editions by watch manufacturers are getting old… but they’re simply not. Or at least not yet, as evidenced by this Fifty Fathoms Barakuda limited edition, which makes for an all-around beautiful timepiece, and an even more unique dive watch.
5. IWC Aquatimer Automatic Ref. IW329001 – Price: $5,400
For a brand that ranked quite well on our list of the best pilot’s watches, it’s slightly unexpected to see IWC also gain a spot on this page. Nevertheless, the Aquatimer in any of its many iterations, is a formidable dive watch in its own right.
Aside from the noteworthy looks, IWC presents a diver style with an innovative diver’s bezel mechanism. More specifically, it boasts the brand’s SafeDive bezel, which possesses a sliding clutch feature that only allows the internal dive bezel to rotate in one direction. The outer bezel itself rotates bidirectionally, but only actuates the internal component in a single direction (counter-clockwise), making for a pretty cool system.
Another advantage of this Aquatimer Auto is it’s quick-change strap system. It allows for changing of the band without the need for tools, easily permitting the switch from bracelet to strap or vice versa.
With models like this Aquatimer, IWC continues to establish their presence in the world of watches, and not merely as a manufacturer of pilot’s styles.
The brand is evidently flexible and versatile, two aspects that have noticeably lacked in failed watch brands, and which won’t be bringing down the Schaffhausen watchmaker any time soon.
Best Dive Watch Under $1,000
Tissot Seastar 100 Powermatic 80 Ref. T120.407.37.051.00 – Price: $830
- Brand: Tissot
- Model: Seastar 100 Powermatic 80
- Reference: T120.407.37.051.00
- Case: PVD-Coated Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Scratch-Resistant Sapphire
- Band: Rubber Strap
- Movement: Automatic (ETA Movement)
- Tissot POWERMATIC 80.111 Caliber
- Up To 80 Hours Power Reserve
- Water Resistance: 300 meters
- Price: $830 [Shop On Amazon]
Best Dive Watch Under $500
Luminox Navy SEAL Watch Ref. 3501.BO – Price: $375
- Brand: Luminox
- Model: Navy SEAL Watch
- Reference: 3501.BO
- Case: Carbon Compound, 45mm
- Crystal: Mineral
- Band: Polyurethane Strap
- Movement: Quartz
- Water Resistance: 200 meters
- Price: $375 [Buy On Amazon]
If you’ve enjoyed our guide on the iconic dive watch style, make sure to check out some of our other popular articles below!
- Which Luxury Watch Manufacturer Makes The Best Pilot’s Watches?
- What Defines A True Dress Watch?
- The Thinnest Mechanical Watch In The World
- Bespoke Unit’s Favorite & Most Affordable Rolex Watches
- Bespoke Unit Watches Homepage
"An awesome array of prominent dive styles, packed with loads of interesting commentary. I would have picked the regular Sub over the new SD, but either one is a great choice."Rating: 5.0★★★★★